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Autonomous technologies are emerging quickly. While the industry is still gearing up to deploy the benefits of autonomous tech, many in the automobile sector have already started experimenting with the advantages of this technology. 

Gaurav Pokharkar’s first experience with autonomous vehicles was when he started working with Ford Motor Company as a contractor. He enrolled in Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program when he decided to apply for a full time role within the organization. Since then, he has also enrolled in the Sensor Fusion Nanodegree program. Here’s how the Nanodegree program helped  his journey from a contractor role to becoming a full-time Advanced Driver Assistance Engineer (ADAS) Test and Dev Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company.

Tell us something about yourself 

My name is Gaurav Pokharkar. I am located in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. Currently, I am working as an Advanced Driver Assistance Engineer (ADAS) Test and Dev Research Engineer in Ford Motor Company. I have a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University.

When and why did you enroll for Udacity Nanodegree program?

I graduated in May 2016. After graduation, I got a contract position  at Ford in the White Department as Body Structures Engineer. I was in this role for a year and was happy with  job. I saw Autonomous Vehicles being tested on campus and became really interested in them. I knew working on these vehicles would be a really great opportunity,  but thought it would be impossible to get a job in the field considering I have no related experience. As a New Year’s resolution for 2018, I decided I would work to become a full-time direct hire at at Ford and learn about  Autonomous vehicles.

I was quite disheartened when I went through the requirements of those jobs. Being that I only partially fulfilled the job requirements, I knew it would be difficult to get a position with my background.  Then, I lost all hope after reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of engineers working in this field. While I was researching I came across the Detroit Autonomous Vehicles meetup group (https://davg.tech/). I visited them and Alex Polonsky, the organizer of that group, gave me some information about Udacity’s coursework. I went through Udacity’s term 1 coursework and it looked very challenging and difficult. I didn’t have much of a coding background so I knew I would have to start from the basics. I had worked with  C++ during my first year of engineering in 2011, but I had no previous experience with Python. Plus, the program came with a 10 month money and time investment. 

At first, I was a bit hesitant and worried about getting a job after completing the course. My parents motivated me by reminding me of Elon Musk’s quote, “If something is important enough, you should give it a try even if the odds are not in your favor.” Being that I was already at Ford and could easily reach out to hiring managers, the odds really were in my favor this time. I decided to take one day at a time, give studying my best every day day, create a good portfolio of projects, and then worry about the job hunt. And in March 2018, I decided to enroll in the Intro to Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program. 

You have got a job at Ford. Can you tell something about your role? How did the Nanodegree program help you land this job?

I work as an ADAS Test and Dev. Engineer at Ford Motor Company. My responsibilities in my role includes testing ADAS systems by driving the vehicle, creating and  maintaining test requirements, and plans for the same. I also work with the Sensor Fusion Team and Algorithms teams to help them create test plans for their algorithms and features. 

The real-world projects in Udacity’s Nanodegree program helped me create a good GitHub portfolio.  My portfolio of projects helped me get the job interview. The interviewers were also aware of my coursework and projects. Since I had implemented the projects myself I was able to easily explain it to them and I think this impressed them and helped me land the job. I had only completed the intro course and was near the end of Term 1 of the Self Driving Nanodegree program when I interviewed.  In October 2018 and I both interviewed for the role and completed term 1 of the program.I completed term 2 of the Nanodegree program in March 2019 and I started working in my new role in January 2019.

What did you like the most in your Nanodegree program?

I liked how the content goes from the basics to more advanced and complex concepts. This helped me better understand the concepts.  The way the course was organized made it easy for me to grasp the concepts quickly and implement them efficiently. Plus, there are real world projects based on autonomous vehicles.  The projects helped me build a great portfolio to showcase my work to new employers and helped me in the job change.

Anything you would like to add

To further enhance my knowledge and skill set, I enrolled in Udacity’s Sensor Fusion Nanodegree program in June 2019.Next , I plan to enroll in the Robotics and Computer Vision Nanodegree Programs.

Udacity’s coursework not only provided me with the technical skill-set required for the job, but also taught me how to look for solutions for any problems you might face. Udacity taught me self-discipline and, with the help of the internet, you can learn and solve any problem on your own.